Posts filed under ‘Indian politics, bureaucracy and government’
Following is a report from the outlook : (Thanks to Saket Sahu and Brundaban Sahu for the pointer)
Linguistic States: A 20th-Century Timeline
Dec 1903: Linguistic principle for organising India’s provinces figures for first time in Sir Herbert Risley’s letter to the Bengal government. Sir Herbert is home secretary at this point.
1905: Partition of Bengal takes place
1917: Dr Annie Besant strongly opposes linguistic organisation of provinces at the Calcutta session
1920: Congress adopts linguistic redistribution of provinces at the Nagpur session
1927: Congress adopts a resolution supporting creation of linguistic states
1928: Motilal Nehru Committee supports redistribution along linguistic lines
1945-46: Congress election manifesto promises provinces will be constituted on linguistic and cultural lines
Nov 1947: Prime Minister Nehru concedes the linguistic principle, but says security and stability of India important
1948: Linguistic provinces commission set up
Aug-Sept, 1951: G. Sitaramaiah fasts for creation of Andhra state
Dec 15, 1952: Potti Sriramulu dies while fasting for the creation of Andhra. The state is carved out of Madras Presidency only a year later.
Dec 1953: States Reorganisation Commission (SRC) is set up
1955: Nehru sends S.G. Barve to the former USSR for understanding the language policy as a state reconstruction programme
Jul 1955: SRC report submitted—14 states and 9 union territories recommended.
Aug 1956: SRC recommendations implemented
1960: Gujarat and Maharashtra come into being
1960-61: Sant Fateh Singh and Master Tara Singh undertake fast unto death for the creation of a Punjab state
1963-64: Language riots in Tamil Nadu
1963: Nagaland takes shape
1966: Haryana and Punjab created 1970-80: Other Northeastern states carved out
1992: Goa created
2000: Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand emerge as independent entities.
In 2012, 56 years after the very first round of the reorganisation of states, we seem to have a different ‘thali’ of questions before us. We seem to have arrived at the crossroads on one of the basic features of our federal structure. Federal unity is no longer a serious concern like in the ’50s and ’60s, but with a spate of demands for new states coming up from practically every corner of India at different intervals and with varying intensity, and that too from within states once seen as linguistic and cultural wholes, one wonders if we have slowly begun to move away from the idea of the linguistic state. Has the nation begun to transact with far more pragmatic parameters like development, economic growth, demographic size and administrative convenience, instead of mere emotion? Ever since the creation of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand in 2000 and now, in November 2011, with the resolution passed for a four-way split of Uttar Pradesh, haven’t smaller states become the buzzword? Should we become a nation of 50 states and eight union territories (see imaginary map) in the next few decades from the existing 28 states and seven Union territories? Is it time we constituted a second States Reorganisation Commission (src)?
It appears that there is a general recognition of a drift away from linguistic states and a simultaneous investment of faith in smaller states. Two recent incidents offer an insight. A few weeks back, the Kannada media reported that when a delegation of Marathi-speaking people from the ‘disputed’ border district of Belgaum met Raj Thackeray, he reportedly told the delegation to learn to live in Karnataka. Similarly, Rahul Gandhi’s taunt during his UP poll campaign that people from the state should stop ‘begging’ in Maharashtra was largely an invitation to envisage an economically vibrant state, for which the answer may lie in Mayawati’s idea of splitting it up into four.
The growth rates of smaller states in the last five years too have looked encouraging. Haryana and Himachal Pradesh have done well. The growth rate of a reorganised Bihar has been an impressive 11 per cent over the last five years. Uttarakhand has also posted impressive figures compared to its estranged ‘parent state’, UP.
In this context of new demands and reasoning, many have felt that it would make eminent sense to constitute a second src. Senior journalist B.G. Verghese says that instead of reorganising the states in an untidy and piecemeal fashion, a new src would take a long-term view. “There is nothing wrong,” he says, “in envisaging India at 2040-50 with a population of around 1,600 million organised in 60 states, with an average population of 25 million each, and some 1,500 districts.” He also suggests that the terms of reference for the second src should not be political, but rather “techno-economic-administrative”. More states will not destabilise us, but agitation and alienation of the sort we see in Telangana will, he argues. To go with smaller states and new administrative boundaries, the setting up of natural resource regions, river basin authorities and zonal coordination committees that hold routine meetings become important. “If zonal panels as suggested by the first src were functional, then problems like the Mullaperiyar dam or Cauvery or Belgaum would have been sorted out very differently,” feels Verghese.Historian Ramachandra Guha is equally enthusiastic about smaller states and the setting up of a second src. India, he says, now faces a second generation of challenges, and these pertain to regional imbalances in social and economic development. A new src would look dispassionately into the demands for Vidarbha, Gorkhaland, Harit Pradesh (western UP), Kongu Nadu (western Tamil Nadu) etc. Smaller states alone would not do, the emphasis should also be on granting real financial and political autonomy to panchayats and municipalities, he adds.
Addressing the question on who should be assigned the responsibility of redrawing the map of India’s states, Guha goes a step ahead and suggests that the new src should draw its members not from political parties, but from the law, academia and the social sector. Pointing out that members of the first src were the jurist Fazl Ali; author and diplomat K.M. Panikkar and social worker H.N. Kunzru, who were all non-partisan and widely respected, he says that the members of the new src should be people like jurist Fali S. Nariman, economist Jean Dreze, sociologist Andre Beteille and social worker Ela Bhatt.
However, Marxist historian K.N. Panikkar, even as he concedes that there is a case for smaller states for effective administration and equitable distribution of natural resources, feels that there is no need for a second src as such. He fears that it would open up a Pandora’s box. Panikkar is more for blurring the boundaries between states. “The border should cease to be of any consequence for the people,” he says. “Internal migration and economic linkages should dissolve the existing boundaries between states, even when they maintain cultural identity and administrative distinction.”
The agitation for Gorkhaland. (Photograph by Reuters, From Outlook, February 06, 2012)
The reorganisation argument becomes further nuanced when bureaucrat and India’s former ambassador to unesco, Chiranjiv Singh, puts forward a cultural rationale in place of the familiar administrative or economic one. “Whatever demands we see for new states may not be on linguistic lines, but there is an underlying cultural reasoning. Be it Telangana, Vidarbha or the four divisions of UP and Mithila, they are all cultural units. Also, don’t underestimate culturally distinct North Karnataka’s resentment over Old Mysore,” he says. Linguistically, too, these regions vary to a large extent. Braj, Avadhi or Maithili may have been reduced to dialects in the popular imagination, but they are anything but that. Surdas wrote in Braj Bhasha and Tulsidas wrote in Avadhi. So, Singh’s argument that the new src should recognise these cultural zones appears to be perfectly in place.
Singh further argues that it can’t be assumed that administratively smaller units will spur economic growth. They are not linked to each other, he asserts, offering a few examples: “Assam may grow tea, but the market is in Calcutta and Amritsar. Similarly, Amritsar is the largest producer of nose rings and, needless to say, people in the region don’t wear them. Haveri in Karnataka does not grow cardamom, but it is the market for the spice. This proves that economic linkages don’t respect administrative boundaries. Therefore, it is better that we reorganise on cultural lines. That will also rest easy on the collective memory of the people,” he concludes.
The question of src and the redrawing of the map aside, what has led to the decline of the linguistic state—at least as an exclusive logic? If one were to extrapolate the historical arguments of anthropologist Lisa Mitchell in her book, Language, Emotion and Politics in South India, language as an object of emotion or its personification in India, more specifically the South, was only a late 19th-century creation. But within half a century of the creation of the language-emotion nexus, Potti Sriramulu gave up his life for Telugu and Andhra in December 1952, and soon after, since 1964, Tamil Nadu witnessed a number of self-immolation incidents for the Tamil cause. Earlier, till the 1890s, there were no specifically demarcated domains for any language; there was only a multilingual milieu. How and why this creation happened is an interesting historical process, says Mitchell. Going by this, we could logically assume that language-based emotion may have run its course in a hundred years.
United on division The Telangana demand is based on cultural/economic reasoning
Writer-translator Kalyan Raman points out other factors that may have come to dominate the emotive linguistic field. He says the economic liberalisation in 1991 initiated three trends: inter-state mobility of unskilled workers, especially from impoverished regions to more prosperous states or cities; competition among the states for domestic and foreign investment; increased territorial claims over resources due to pressures of economic development. He points out the dichotomy of the present-day linguistic state thus: “On the one hand, as economic units, linguistic states are depending less on the community’s cultural identity for economic mobilisation to spur growth. On the other hand, cultural/linguistic identity is pressed into service for confrontational politics, whenever required. But the original raison d’etre for linguistic states—of community integration on social and economic planes—seems to have gone past its expiry date. I would say that linguistic states have morphed into something else, and that something else, because it is based on economic clout and political power, may be hard to dismantle.”
The hegemony of the standard version of state language over dialects and other minority languages also may have caused immense damage and dissipation of interest in linguistic states. For instance, when Karnataka celebrated 50 years of its existence in 2006, it only celebrated Kannada and forgot that Konkani, Tulu, Byary and Kodava were the state’s allied languages. Also, the backwards and Dalits, who were seen as guardians of local tongues, have moved on to experience the economically liberating energies of English.
Finally, it is important to point out that our very worldview as a nation seems to have undergone a sea change. We no longer imagine or define ourselves as living in villages, the so-called repositories of culture, but have made cities the nucleus of our being. In some ways, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (jnnurm) programme of the Union government is a metaphor for this transformation. Reporting some of the findings of the People’s Linguistic Survey of India, linguist G.N. Devy pointed out recently that Maharashtra is Marathi-speaking, but Mumbai linguistically needs to be seen as a ‘national city’ rather than a state capital. Ditto would be the results for Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai.
With graft in public life an almost accepted universal norm, the similarities between India and Italy are both striking and startling.
Indians returning from trips to Europe usually tend to grouse about the rude rigidity of the Germans, the haughty froideur of the French, the extreme parsimony of the Dutch or the racism of the Austrians.
Italy, however, brings forth altogether different reactions: “They are friendly, garrulous, welcoming, and it is the only place in Europe that vegetarians can get a decent meal. But they are also thieves and double dealers. Given half a chance they’ll take the very shirt off your back and the shoes off your feet and you won’t even know how it happened, a bit like with the Bambaiya pickpockets. But then, you also somehow feel you are on familiar ground.”
Most Indians say they feel at home in Italy: life is chaotic, no one obeys the rules, policemen can be paid to cancel fines, there is massive tax evasion, the mafia controls large swathes of territory, the government counts for little and for the well-heeled, life is very good indeed.
Hardly anyone, except for a few Christian charities and other NGOs, thinks of the poor. Public money hall-marked for disaster victims tends to disappear into the pockets of officials and cronyism is rampant; homes built for the poor are the first to collapse in southern Italy’s earthquake-prone zones because of the poor quality of materials used ….
Sounds familiar? Well, with regard to the way politics is conducted, with corruption in public life an almost accepted universal norm, the continuing strength of family ties and how society is structured, the similarities between India and Italy are both striking and startling.
In India of course we do not have a jaded, ageing lothario like Silvio Berlusconi at the helm, whose Bunga Bunga nights — lavish parties where he surrounds himself with a bevy of often under-age nymphets — have brought Italy shame and universal opprobrium. Such behaviour would not be possible in India because of the prevailing notions of public (or for that matter) private morality. But like in Italy, hardly any politician caught for graft, blatant misuse of office, or, quite simply, theft from the public coffers has ever gone to prison.
The world might mock and the country’s magistrates might well try to bring Mr. Berlusconi to book for paying under-age prostitutes, for abuse of political office (he ordered the police to free a 17-year-old Moroccan prostitute who called the Prime Minister on his private mobile number from the station where she was being held for shoplifting), or more seriously, for introducing legislation designed to protect him from the judiciary while increasing his own power and influence, but at least half the country’s population continues to support him, admiring him for being a furbo, a clever clogs who has used every trick in the book to outwit the judiciary and get away with a host of alleged crimes and misdemeanours. These include fraud, tax evasion, bribing judges, consorting with the mafia, corruption, conflict of interest, impeding justice, undermining democratic institutions and exploiting them to serve his own vested interests … to name just a few. A recent poll showed that his popularity ratings continued to top 50 per cent and any Italian will tell you that Mr. Berlusconi has a strong chance of being re-elected should he stand for another term.
“In my view Italy is really a political infant, an underdeveloped polity, in a certain sense, a flash in the pan in the developed world. It is astounding, given the levels of corruption we have achieved that Italy continues to have the world’s seventh-largest nominal GDP, (10th highest GDP in PPP terms) and the sixth highest government budget — hugely deficit-ridden of course. But this lack of balance between our economic prowess and the absence of political maturity is the result of history. You must not forget that Italy is a very young democracy — compared to other western powers and that the unification of Italy is barely 130 years old,” Clara Fiorini, a history professor from Milan who says she has compared the situations in India and Italy told The Hindu.
“Like India, Italy was forever being invaded by the outside world. Both our countries are insular peninsulas, protected in the north by the Himalayas in your case and by the Alps in ours. India was constantly taken over, first by the Aryans, followed by the Greeks, the Muslim rulers of the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughals, the Portuguese, the British, the Dutch, the French … and the country was divided into several independent kingdoms or city states like Hyderabad, Mysore, Gwalior, etc. It was the same with us. We had very powerful city states like Venice, Florence, Genoa, Pisa or Amalfi. We were ruled by the Spanish Hapsburgs and also by the Austrians. Then came the Napoleonic wars from 1796 to 1814 when Napoleon destroyed several parts of Venice including the great Arsenale or shipbuilding docks and stole some of our best Renaissance art treasures. When you are ruled by foreign powers, the only persons you can trust are members of your own family or community. That is how Italy’s nepotism began. In India of course appurtenance to caste and community have the same effect.
“Italian unification or Il Risorgimento began with Giuseppe Garibaldi in 1861 and continued until 1922. We have had three wars of independence in this struggle to unify Italy and that was finally achieved after the First World War came to an end. But then we launched into the Fascist period with Mussolini and the modern Italian Republic was born only in 1946, just one year before India became independent.
But if India benefitted, in the first years of its existence as a fledgling state from figures as towering as Nehru or Patel to seal the unity of India, the same cannot be said about Italy, where the Vatican and the influence of the Catholic Church remained very strong. Italian intellectuals like elsewhere, including France, were attracted by Marxist ideology, reviled by the Church. The Italian communist party under charismatic leaders like Enrico Berlinguer commanded as much as 25 per cent of the vote.
“It was to keep the communists out of power at all costs that the horrible power sharing formula known as the ‘partitocrazia’ or the reign of the parties was born. For almost 40 years thereafter until the huge 1992 bribery scandal in Milan known as Tangentopoli (Bribe City) the Christian Democrats and the Socialists with two smaller parties, ruled with governments changing every other day. Corruption was rampant. People held their noses when they went to vote — so strong was the stench of corruption — but voted for the four-party combine nevertheless, in order to keep the communists out,” says Fiorini.
As a result of the Mani Puliti (Clean Hands) investigation that came in the wake of Tangentopoli, Socialist Prime Minister Bettino Craxi fled to Tunisia where he died in exile. Giulio Andreotti, seven times Prime Minister, was charged with corruption, murder and for his links to the mafia. He escaped jail because of the statute of limitations, a trick Mr. Berlusconi has used again and again, getting trials postponed, adjourned or delayed or by transferring judges.
If Italians had hoped for a fresh start, with what many called the Second Italian Republic, they were to be disappointed. The major parties, the Christian Democrats, the Communists and the Socialists dissolved to spring up as new political formations. Silvio Berlusconi entered the breach left by the dissolution of the Christian Democratic Party to form first his Forza Italia and then House of Freedom party. His natural allies came from the right — the deeply anti-immigrant and xenophobic Northern League and the newly re-baptised Allianza Nationale (Mussolini’s original fascist formation) led by Gianfranco Fini. The Left, in what has turned out to be Italy’s greatest tragedy, has broken up into several small, squabbling, fractious political formations, leaderless and with no clear programme to offer. It is not surprising, that Mr. Berlusconi, who comforts the country’s right-wing elites and business communities, remains as popular as he is, despite his shenanigans.
But the magistrates, who, in Italy like in India, constitute the people’s bulwark against open and shameless corruption, appear determined to get him. Magistrates said they could file charges against Mr. Berlusconi “as early as next week.” If convicted of buying the services of an under-age prostitute and abuse of power, Mr. Berlusconi could face a long jail term. But he is protected by an immunity law he himself passed and for the moment, remains beyond the judiciary’s reach.
The noted writer of Italian origin Alexander Stille wrote in The New York Times recently: “In almost any other democracy, that would have been enough to end a politician’s career. But Italians are deeply cynical about their political leaders. Believing that ‘everyone does it,’ it is possible to convince yourself that the exposure of Berlusconi’s crimes and misdemeanours is actually a sign that he is being singled out for persecution.”
This is a view, says Stille, which is reinforced by the substantial portion of the Italian media, which is controlled by Mr. Berlusconi. Even the media outlets he does not own outright are either intimidated or under his influence. Much of the evidence in the current scandal (as with those in the past) has not been aired on the principal newscast of the Italian State TV, which, together with Mr. Berlusconi’s networks, enjoy a nearly 90 per cent market share in a country where 70 to 80 per cent of the public gets its news from television.”
Following are some links:
- Live Webcast of rally at http://live.bjp.org